A Pakistani police commander ordered tens of thousands of potbellied officers to diet or quit frontline duties.

Habibur Rehman—the police chief in Pakistan's most populous province, Punjab—ordered 175,000 personnel not to allow their waistlines to exceed 38 inches (96cm).

He told officials last month that, "I'm on a diet, and if I can do it, why can't you?"

Spokeswoman Nabila Ghazanfar said at least 50 percent of Punjab police were overweight.

Local newspaper The News said the number of overweight officers in Rawalpindi—the headquarters of the army—stood at more than 77 percent. It added that "policeman appear to be losing the battle of the bulge."

Officers were given until June 30 to shape up, and those deemed too fat from July 1 will not be given jobs in the field.

Ghazanfar said, "Police officials are joining gyms, jogging and doing other exercise, including a lot of running to become thin and slim."

Overweight officers are ineffective and "cannot chase bandits, robbers and other criminals properly," she added, blaming the problem on under-staffing.

"We have a shortage of personnel. What can you expect when one official is doing the job of six people? They don't get time for physical fitness," she said.

Another official who did not wish to be named said 100 stations initially were singled out for the exercise order, but Rehman later decided to send warning letters to the entire Punjabi police force.

The Pakistani diet is rich in meat and oil.

The country is ranked 165 of 194 on the Forbes list of fattest countries, with 22.2 percent of the population considered overweight despite immense poverty faced by millions in the country.